It seems odd that shortly after celebrating our Lord’s birth, we are thrown into Lent commemorating His passion, death, and resurrection. I remember our late pastor saying that sometimes your Lent comes after a loved one dies. Sometimes your Lent comes when a child leaves home or during a financial crisis. The experience of Lent can really come anytime of the year.
There’s no louder sound than that of a heart breaking, especially if it’s a parent’s heart. What do you do when loved ones turn from God? When they mock or ridicule all that you taught them?
Pray and have hope, of course! St. Monica prayed for about ten years for her son to convert. Biographies emphasize her many tears, fastings, and prayers for her wayward son, Augustine. He turned from the faith, had a child out of wedlock, lied, and ran away from her mother. What a heartache for a mother who loved the Lord and her Catholic faith. However, she did not give up even when all hope seemed lost.
Dramatically, it seemed, God answered her prayers in a huge way. Her son was transformed by the voice of a child commanding him, “Take up and read.” Augustine picked up the Letters of St. Paul and “the scales fell from his eyes.” (Acts 9:18)
St. Augustine lived the rest of his life as a penitent, a staunch believer, and later Bishop of Hippo. So in the end, God did more than just convert St. Augustine, he helped him convert many others by making him a bishop and after his death, Doctor of the Church. The Lord knew the right time to open his heart. St. Monica could have fallen permanently into despair, but she did not. She was steadfast. God rewarded Monica by making her and her son saints.
Like St. Monica, we hurt most deeply when seeing loved ones go astray, but we must pray, fast, and do penance for their conversion. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
If your Lent comes early this year embrace it! When you hear that loud sound of your heart breaking over a child, a sibling, a parent, or friend, remember to turn to Our Mother who never tires of praying for us and with us. Her heart was pierced and ours will be as well. However, grab a faithful prayer partner and put your trust in God who truly hears every prayer.
Copyright © 2013, Mary Mitchell
Image: Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique, by Ary Scheffer (1795–1858)
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